Directed by Makinov
Before the screening of Come Out and Play here at Fantastic Fest in Austin, we were privy to a bizarre introduction by the film’s writer/director Makinov. Wearing a red mask to obscure his face – the same mask he wore all throughout the shooting of the film – he delivered a manifesto that, when boiled to its central points, was a nihilistic rant about the futility of life and dying alone. This is apparently expressed through his first feature, a remake of the 1976 thriller Who Can Kill a Child?
Come Out and Play follows Francisco and Beth (Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Vinessa Shaw), a couple expecting their third child as they spend one last vacation away from the kids in Mexico. After renting a boat the morning after a massive carnival, the two take a trip away from the mainland to a small island for a few days of splendor in the sand and sun. Upon arrival they discover a small group of kids playing in the water, and after a bit of exploration, discover that there are no adults to be find anywhere on the island. They quickly discover that the cause of their absence is the children, who quickly subject to the couple a terrifying ordeal as they try to escape the island alive.
While Come Out and Play lacks a genuinely compelling story – it’s little more than a killer children flick set on an island – Makinov’s tight direction and hand-held cinematography inject a current of suspense that flows throughout the entire film and rarely lets up. Even as Francisco and Beth sit in a store eating, you’re on the edge of your seat, simply waiting for something to happen; you’ve already met the children, and you know something is amiss. Its steady build up in intensity is made all the more palpable by the score, a mix of drones and high-pitched beats that cause the film to alternate between lingering fear and outright action without.
None of this could have been made possible without a stellar performance from Ebon Moss-Bachrach, who single-handedly carries the film with an emotionally powerful performance. His counterpart in Vinessa Shaw is less compelling, due in part to much of her performance being limited to expressing confusion and fear while Francisco runs around trying to make sense of what’s going on. Beyond the two principal characters, the children are the real stars, possessing icy stares and horrendously sinister laughter as they wander throughout the town looking for victims. At first they just stare, but as the film progresses, the full impact of their malady is revealed with gory detail. We’re never given an explanation for their behavior, however, a choice that might frustrate those who want their thrillers to be wrapped up in a neat little bow and presented in a way that eliminates anything resembling ambiguity. But the film isn’t about why they’re doing it, it’s about the reaction of the protagonists when faced with a horrifying evil and their intrinsic natures prevents them from doing anything about it until it’s too late. In this Makinov succeeded.
I have not seen the film upon which this is based, though many have stated that it’s a beat for beat remake with its only difference being a slightly modified ending. While it’s often difficult to separate the two as distinctly different entities, it’s unfair to weigh the quality of one against the other. That said, as an individual with no prior experience with Who Can Kill a Child?, Come Out and Play is an ambitious film for a first time director, one good enough that a man need not wear a symbolic mask to celebrate its bleakness.
4 out of 5